Thursday, 27 August 2009

Merrigan memo on programs that support regional food systems

USDA Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan sent out a memo to all of her staff as well as other interested parties regarding three rural development programs that she thinks can be better utilized in the development of local and regional food systems. She states that she would "like to play the role of match-maker during this Administration" by helping USDA program administrators better understand how programs can serve their efforts.

The memo focused on three particular programs, each beginning with an inspirational theme that encourages groups to "imagine" the possibilities:

Community Facilities Program
(CF) - Imagine USDA funds being used to build a community kitchen, to build an open-sided structure for a farmers market, or to construct a cold storage facility to help schools retrofit the cafeteria to buy produce directly from farmers. CF supports the success of rural communities by providing loans and grants for the construction, acquisition, or renovation of community facilities or for the purchase of equipment for community projects.

Businesss and Industry (B&I) Guarentee Loan Program- Imagine USDA funds being used to aggregate local farm products to better serve institutions, to fund a mobile slaughterhouse to support local free-range poultry growers, or to help food processors add equipment and storage to handle organic certification. The B&I program helps new and existing businesses in rural areas to gain access to affordable capital with favorable interests rates and terms.

Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG) - Imagine USDA funds being used to conduct a feasibility study of providing local food in schools, to help farmers with direct marketing of pasture-raised meat in restaurants, or to help farmers with marketing sustainably grown or raised food. The VAPG grants provide funding to agricultural producers who add value to their raw products through processing or marketing, thereby increasing farm income.

The memo runs through eligibility guidelines, grant amounts and terms, program priorities and information on how to apply, all which can be found on the USDA website.

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